Imagining the Organic City : Modern Tropes of Organization
Abstract: The thesis examines three ’organic tropes’ of modern architecture and urban design, addressing different crucial moments of change within modernist discourse. Attention is focused on the institutionalization of ‘town planning’ at the turn of the last century; the shift during the post-war years; and the beginning of urban debate in Japan during the early 1960s. The study builds upon the thesis that ‘the organic’ constitutes a basic trope of a modernism that reinvents the term over and over again. In its ambivalent relationship to modernity, which it both embraces and rejects the organic hovers between progressivist and nostalgic imaginations. There has been relatively little enquiry into ‘the organic’ as part of the larger system of modernism in architecture and urbanism. This is because of its ambiguous identity. Historically, urban organic rhetoric emerged in times of change, revision, or when a debate about basic principles of planning practice was at stake, in times that were experienced as crisis. The rhetoric of the organic springs from the desire or need to reconcile conflicting parts into a coherent whole. The urban schemes discussed here, such as Patrick Geddes’ vision of an organic city, or the megastructures of the metabolists, are based on contradictions taking in aspects of individual agency and collectivity, or fragmentation and totality. Attempting to take a holistic perspective on urban processes and city change, they opened up for a range of political issues concerning authority in city planning and the status of the citizens in this procedure. Beside formal questions we find organizational concerns that go beyond static plans in envisioning sustainable futures through the thinking in processes and the proposal of programs. This text explores discursive and theoretical works with a distinct programmatic character, which have primarily taken place at the level of visions and discussions rather than through actual materializations in the city fabric. These works are considered in the context of their projective model character, and their relevance for the discourse on cities and citizens, the nature of planning, urban and architectural design.
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